A client does not pay you to become their friend.
Even if being friendly is part of the job, if the virtual assistant-client relationship starts to blur, you will definitely suffer some loss down the line.
You don’t want a client taking advantage of your friendship to work for free.
You also don’t want to work with a client who gives you ulcers just because they are paying you well.
Below are some tips and techniques that will help you deal with different types of clients who put you in different types of difficult situations.
1. Establish Yourself as a Business Owner
The moment the client sees that you;
- have an idea of where you want to work
- how you want to work
- and that you have some professional boundaries;
they will respect you as a colleague and not as an employee.
They will stop treating you like a secretary waiting for orders from the boss and instead treat you with respect.
Once such a relationship is established, you can terminate the contract if you feel that the client has started taking you round in circles.
You will never feel indebted or dependent on a client.
2. Put Your Terms and Conditions In Order
As a virtual assistant, you need to put all your working conditions, hours and boundaries in your terms and conditions contract. You must insist on never working outside the agreed terms and conditions and ensure that the client fully understands and agrees to this.
Ensure that the terms and conditions contract has been signed by both parties. You will avoid a lot of problems in future if the client understands how you work from the get-go.
3. Understand the Project Scope
Before you begin to work on a task or a project, ensure that you understand its scope and the amount budgeted for the same.
It is also important to have an escalation clause in your contract so that if the task or the project goes way out of scope, you can have remuneration for the extra work.
The client must understand that your time is important and that you need to be paid for every task that you do unless it has been agreed previously that you will work for free.
4. Clarity is Paramount
The best way to get clarity about a task that you are doing is to repeat it back to the client and save it in an email that you can refer to later.
If the client gives the go ahead, you can start working on it. If the client has some reservations, they will instruct you accordingly. Just make sure you don’t start on a project that you don’t fully understand.
5. Ask Questions
Most VAs have reservations about asking questions to clarify a situation because they think that the client will feel they are not properly qualified for the task.
If you worry about appearing stupid to your client before you begin a task, imagine how it will feel when you have wasted a few days on a project only to find that you did it wrong.
6. Don’t Reply to Emails at Odd Hours
If a client sends you an email at odd hours, they don’t expect that you will respond straight away.
Don’t get into the habit of waking up in the middle of the night to respond to emails as this will make the client feel that you are dependent on them and are desperate for their work.
Sometimes virtual assistants feel that a client is overstepping their boundaries when in the real sense they are not. It might be that the client loves working at odd hours.
7. When a Client Oversteps, Let them Know As Much
If a customer is rude or they go out of the agreed terms and conditions, let them know as much.
This is because if a customer contacts you at the middle of the night and you pick the call or your reply to the email they will come to get used to you doing it and might get offended when you fail to do it.
Don’t encourage any habits that you don’t want to continue.
8. Learn to Say No
When you feel that something is not going the way it should, you need to restate your terms and conditions in a friendly manner either verbally or through an email.
Saying no politely is one of the most important skills that a virtual assistant can have.
9. Never Give Out Your Weaknesses
One way that clients take advantage of you is if they know your weakness.
For example, if you don’t have any clients currently, never let a potential client know that you’re desperate for work.
This will give them the upper hand in negotiating the rates. If a client senses your weakness, they will milk the advantage to the last drop…as you would if put in similar circumstances.
10. Ask for Milestone Payments For Large Invoices
Sometimes you will get involved in a large project that goes on for multiple years.
If you are concerned about not getting paid for such large projects, ask for instalment payment so that after you are done with a certain milestone, you get paid for it.
This is a common practice among web developers.
11. Ask for Retainer if You Suspect a Problem Payer
If you suspect that a client is a bad payer, you can suggest getting a retainer to be able to secure the time you spend on the project.
However, you need to be careful with the time you ask for the retainer because you must have proven your worth before asking for it. Retainers are always paid in advance.
12. Invoice New Clients Fortnightly
Ensure that your terms and conditions contract say that you invoice all new clients in a fortnight. This is to avoid working for a long period of time for a client who has the potential of fleecing you a month’s worth of work.
13. Use a Shared Google Sheet to Track Assigned Tasks
Create a Google Spreadsheet that you fill with all the tasks that the client has asked you to execute and order them by priority.
Every time you are done with executing a task, update its status as complete. A Google Sheet is a good tool to use when a client requires progress update or have a hard time prioritising the tasks.
It also means that a client cannot claim ignorance if the tasks are not done as he prioritised.
14. Write an Email Stating Who is Responsible for What
A well-structured email that states who is responsible for what task is important when a conflict arises. Ensure that you share these emails with the client so that you can always refer back to them.
15. Have a Regular Short Progress Update Meeting
Create a short meeting every Friday afternoon to evaluate the progress of the project or the tasks assigned. This allows the customer to be aware of what you will be doing for the next week. Usually, these meetings are charged and it is an income that you don’t want to miss.
16. Be Firm When Working With Friends
When working with friends, ensure that they understand that your virtual assistant business is run professionally and there is a clear demarcation between friendship and the business transactions.
Make sure they also understand what to avoid to keep the lines between friendship and business unblurred.